9/19: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp and a few players meet with the media each Monday to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

OPENING STATEMENT AND PLAYER AWARDS

Muschamp began his portion of the press conference by commending Florida for a terrific team effort against Tennessee. “The thing that jumps out at you when you watch the film is that we played with great effort, toughness, passion, energy on both sides of the ball and in special teams,” he said. “I really thought our players really played hard in the game, and that’s the thing. If we can continue to have that kind of effort, we’re going to have a lot of success. […] We got to clean some things up. We got to play smarter in some situations on both sides of the ball. There’s a lot of teaching points from the film.”

He also handed out his weekly awards, which can be found below along with honors that two Gators received from the Southeastern Conference:

Offensive Player of the Game: Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey
Scrap Iron Award (best OL): Redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison
Big Play Award: Rainey/redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley for the check-down pass that resulted in an 83-yard touchdown
Extra Effort Award: Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose and redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian for down field blocks that sprung big plays
Defensive Player of the Game: Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley
Ball Hawk Award: Sophomore safety Matt Elam, junior S Josh Evans, sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell (for helping create both interceptions)
Special Teams Players of the Week: Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (4/4 on field goals), freshman cornerback Louchiez Purifoy (four tackles on kickoff coverage)
Scout Team Players of the Week: Jabari Gorman, Tommy Jordan, Jason Traylor

Rainey was also named the SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week, while Sturgis earned the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honor for his performance.

INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown, who has yet to play in 2011 due to a knee injury, will be out “probably for a couple of weeks,” Muschamp said. “The knee has just not responded coming back off the injury. There’s no surgery required. Very frustrating for Jeremy. He’s a great young man, and I’m just hurt for him as far as that’s concerned.”

In other bad news, freshman offensive lineman Trip Thurman is now done for the season due to a shoulder injury. “Trip had shoulder surgery this morning, so he’ll be out for the season,” Muschamp explained. “He’s a guy we felt like could help us this year. He’s a very talented guy, we’re glad he’s a Gator, but we felt like with the situation with his shoulder, we needed to get that cleaned up.”

Redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed (hamstring) remains questionable for Kentucky, but the rest of the team’s injuries are bumps and bruises, none of which should affect the injury report for Saturday’s game.

Additionally, redshirt sophomore LB Dee Finely – arrested last week for two misdemeanors – will return Saturday after serving a one-week suspension. Muschamp did not comment on the situation last week, but Finley was not in pads for the game.

A TAKE ON KENTUCKY

Muschamp provided his perspective on Saturday’s opponent, Kentucky, from all three facets of the game.

“They lost a lot of their core offensive playmakers from last year – some really good players – so I think they’re still searching for an identity offensively.

“Defensively they’re only giving up 13 points a game, so they’re playing very well defensively. They’ve got some playmakers on defense that are doing a nice job.

“Special teams, they’re leading in kickoff coverage and kickoff return in the SEC – two of the four categories I know they’re leading the SEC.”

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

For the first time this season, the Gators will leave the friendly confines for Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and head out for a road game in Lexington, KY. Muschamp said Monday that even though 16 players on the two-deep depth chart will be making their first road trip with the team, he does not plan to change the team’s preparation.

“In the preseason I wanted to fly to Canada, but Jeremy [Foley] turned me down,” he said joking about the team preparing to go on the road. “We do the same routine through practice schedule, and then Friday we have our normal walk through and meetings that we have here. We get on the plane and go to the hotel. Generally we go to a movie the night before the game if we play a night game, which we are playing a night game. All of our game day stuff is the same; it’s just a different hotel and a different stadium to play in. We try to approach everything with a real methodical approach in everything we do. We don’t change a whole lot as far as what we do, just the surroundings are a little different.”

WEIS’s INFLUENCE DRIVING THE OFFENSE

It makes sense that the team’s offensive coordinator have a major impact on the performance of that unit’s players, but with Charlie Weis in the fold, the turnaround has been perhaps quicker than some expected even if it hasn’t been painless. Muschamp expressed on Monday how impressed he is with Weis from a coaching standpoint, especially how he deals with quarterbacks and his methods during the game.

“I think when you coach the quarterback, it’s a different mentality. It’s a different temperament. Quarterback is a position you’ve got to handle. Charlie, I think, does a great job on the sideline as far as finding out what’s working and what John feels good with,” he said. “His experience speaks for itself, and the experience he’s had with quarterbacks. He manages it the way he likes to manage it, and I think it’s been very productive obviously for us to this point.

“I really enjoy the interaction he and I have on game day as far as where we are and what we’re doing as far as how we’re playing defensively, how we’re playing offensively, special teams what we need to do in the game to take advantage to try to win the ballgame.”

Brantley agreed, stating that the conversations they have on the sideline after drives really help him throughout the game. “Depending on how the drive goes, he picks out the coverages, what they’re bringing, trying to figure out early what it’s going to be – a man-to-man game or a zone game,” he said.

The signal caller also mentioned that Weis is well-prepared from a play calling standpoint heading into each contest. “He’ll script, it seems like, two-to-three drives almost. He’ll try to stick with it as much as he can,” Brantley said. “He’ll put down some ideas and ask me how comfortable I feel about everything and if I feel comfortable with what he’s got, then we’ll go with that. So far so good.”

SECONDARY NEEDS TO SOLIDIFY, BUT IT IS GETTING THERE

Though Florida’s secondary had its share of struggles on Saturday, Muschamp was pleased with the overall effort of the young group. He insisted that, even though there were numerous pass interference calls against them, they remain aggressive even as they improve and get smarter going forward.

“You coach off the tape. You look at the tape technically and say, ‘You’re in position here. You could’ve done this, you couldn’t have done that. That’s a bang-bang play. You’re in good position, you make the play on the ball. Those things happen,’” he explained. “We’re going to stay and we’re going to play aggressively. I told them this morning, ‘Continue to play aggressively in what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.’”

NOTES & QUOTES

» Muschamp on Powell’s play and effort on Saturday: “Played his best game out of the first three, got some really good pressure. […] More than anything he played fast, played physical, and that’s what we’re needing out of him. He certainly had it in him, and we just got to do a better job of coaching.”

» Muschamp on if he is worried he is garnering a reputation with officials: “No.”

» Muschamp on how the offensive line is playing: “We’ve made a lot of progress on the offensive line. I don’t know that we played our best game against Tennessee. We had a couple procedural issues that set us back on the sack in the red zone going in. A lot of missed protection, which was the first sack we have given up this season. I don’t think we played our best game up front offensively. Jon Harrison played very well, but across the board we can played better.”

» Muschamp on freshman CB Marcus Roberson’s penalties and positioning: “I thought he played extremely well. I thought he kept receivers cut off down the field. He’s very disruptive on the line of scrimmage. He’s got good ball skills and had some good opportunities in the game. Very pleased with his progress. He works hard at practice. He has good retention day-in and day-out in what we do and how we do it. I’ve been very pleased with his progress.”

» Muschamp on Florida having won 24-straight against Kentucky: “I think it has zero factor in what is going to happen Saturday night. Absolutely none. Most of our guys weren’t alive then.”

» Muschamp on if fumbles drive him nuts: “It’s not good. Fumbles…we don’t want it to happen. We coach and talk about holding the ball high and tight and the pressure points of the ball. We emphasize ball security a lot. We got to continue to emphasize that, especially in the situation the other day when you’re in a pile. Certainly the protection of the ball is the most important thing, possession of the ball.”

» Muschamp on if Purifoy is earning playing time on defense with his efforts on special teams: “He’s played well, he’s practiced well and deserves the opportunity.”

» Muschamp on looking ahead to Kentucky: “It’s a series of one-game seasons. Whatever you did the last time out really doesn’t matter. It’s about the next time out and the match-ups and the opportunity you have to make plays on the ball and play on the line of scrimmage and make plays on offense and special teams.”

» Brantley on if he trusts the receivers: “I think the receivers have done a fine job. I trust them no matter what happens. I’m going to keep throwing to them, and I trust that they’re going to be able to get open.”

» Brantley on the 24-game winning streak: “You got to put that in the past. That’s a cool thing, but we just got to worry about this year, this weekend coming up.”

» Brantley on reducing miscues on offense: “We just got to be better with the communication. We got to be more precise. There should be no mixed signals or anything. That’s what you try to work on during the week, have a little bit of noise out there during practice and work on that communication.”

» Brantley on the offensive line so far: “I have all the confidence in the world with my offensive line. We studied real hard this offseason during spring ball and camp, so we know where our outlets are. We’re just trying to give what the defense gives us.”

» Brantley on Muschamp’s intensity during the game: “I think Coach Muschamp has a different kind of energy – you saw him go after the refs a little bit. He’s really into the game just like any other coach would be. Very supportive with the offense and defense. He might just have a little different kind of intensity.”

» Brantley said he is able to recognize some of the stuff that New England QB Tom Brady does during games (when he watches him on TV). He notices how he identifies the Mike linebacker and even sees how some of the plays look familiar as they are being run. Though the two have never spoke, Brantley thinks he can learn from watching Brady, especially considering many of the plays they run are in Weis’s offense.

» Junior LB Jon Bostic on the defensive line helping blitzing linebackers: “It helps us out a lot. With them taking on double teams, basically holding those offensive linemen off us, basically they have to choose one, where we can come freely or it allows us to come freely.”

» Bostic on redshirt junior LB Lerentee McCray: “He’s one of those guys who can put his hand down and rush the passer, he can stand up and play Sam and drop back in pass coverage. From a physical standpoint, that’s where you’re seeing Lerentee come along. He’s one of those guys that can come down, hit a fullback right in the mouth, and make the fullback not want to come that way anymore. I’ve known that since I first got here. He’s always been one of those tough guys who likes to go hard and always likes to prove a point every play he’s on the field.”

» Bostic on Muschamp yelling at the officials: “He’s one of those coaches who kind of just likes to get after it. Wants to make sure all of the calls are right and the game is just played fair.”

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9/17: Florida vs. Tennessee post-game notes

The No. 16/17 Florida Gators (3-0, 1-0) began their Southeastern Conference slate in impressive fashion on Saturday, wrapping up a 33-23 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers (2-1, 0-1) with strong efforts from their offense, defense and special teams. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from head coach Will Muschamp.

RAINEY’s REDEMPTION TOUR CONTINUES

Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey was already in the midst of a great season before stepping on the field Saturday. While he may have scored three touchdowns in a single game in Florida’s week one victory over Florida Atlantic, there is no doubt that his performance this week was the best of the young season. Rainey carried the ball 21 times for 108 yards, grabbed two receptions for 104 yards (including an 83-yard touchdown) and blocked a punt that resulted in a field goal for the Gators.

“Rainey is a special athlete,” redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley said after the game. “He’s getting better each week, and he’s really grown up and bought into all of this. He deserves all of this that he’s been doing.”

He has now scored a total of five touchdowns through three games (two rushing, two receiving, one return) and is on pace for 2,080 yards of total offense. While his attitude and work ethic have helped motivate the team off the field, Rainey’s play on the field has been the brightest spot for an up-and-coming Florida team in 2011.

MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP

Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.

“I thought we moved the ball well – very effectively early in the game especially. We had some opportunities that we squandered in the first half offensively. Defensively I thought we played very well. As the game kind of changed there throwing the football there obviously we had two mental errors on touchdowns […] before half, which is disappointing. There are some communication issues we’ve got to clean up. But as the game changed there, you’ve got to play coverage and make them bleed the clock. That’s what we were trying to do in those situations. The worst thing you can do in that situation is give up a big play. Special teams block punt was huge. It was great designed by D.J. [Durkin]. I felt like we had them outnumbered in the protection, and it was a great job by Chris Rainey and the execution of our young men.”

STURGIS REMAINS PERFECT WITH FOUR SCORES

The biggest flaw in regards to the Gators’ offense at this point is their ability to convert red zone appearances into touchdowns. Unlike last season, Florida has been able to count on redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis to bail them out of these situations. With four field goals on Saturday (from 28, 30, 46 and 42 yards), Sturgis now a perfect 9/9 on the season (he is also 12/12 on extra points).

“Just to know you feel good and comfortable about when he walks on the field. When the ball’s on the 35 yard line, you’re talking about a 52-yard field goal, and you feel very comfortable that he’s going to make the field goal,” Muschamp said. “Caleb’s just been outstanding for us. A guy that certainly gives me a huge comfort level when we hit in that 35-yard-line to know that we’re going to get three points, and I feel pretty comfortable about that.”

PENALTIES…PENALTIES…PENALTIES…

For the third-straight game, the Gators absolutely blew it when it came to committing penalties. This week was historically bad, however, as Florida doubled up their season total and tied school records for second-most penalties in a game (16) and second-most penalty yards in a game (150). UF has now committed 34 penalties for 270 yards in three games, numbers that Muschamp obviously finds simply unacceptable.

Especially abhorrent on Saturday was the number of pass interference calls against the Gators – six total by five different players. Though two of the calls were questionable, freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson (two), junior safety Josh Evans, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins, sophomore CB Cody Riggs and freshman S De’Ante Saunders (one each) all committed the foul. These miscues extended drives by Tennessee, many of which concluded with the Vols putting points on the board.

In addition to the extreme number of penalties, Florida’s defense also had trouble holding onto passes they defended. Roberson and Jenkins combined for at least three dropped interceptions, and Roberson also had a caught pick called back due to one of his pass interference penalties. Muschamp commented on the entire situation after the game.

“I look at penalties a couple different ways. Are they discipline penalties? When you jump offsides, when we’re down in the red zone on the 13-yard-line – that’s an issue. When you have to call timeout because we don’t get the right personnel in the game – that’s an issue. Those are what I call procedural issues, and those are discipline penalties – jumping offsides or lining up offisdes on defense, which we did tonight. And we had that issue last week. Those are things that you got to get corrected. Are they being addressed? Yes. Are they being addressed the right way? Obviously not because they’re still happening. Then there’s penalties that are aggressive penalties that are judgement calls – those happen in the game of football, especially the way we play. We play a lot of bump-and-run, we play a lot of man-to-man, a lot of deny-the-ball defense. Those things happen sometimes. I’m not saying they’re OK and I’m not saying I tolerate them.”

BRANTLEY CONTINUES TO PROGRESS

Though he may not be setting the world on fire with his numbers, Brantley looked great to start the game, leading the Gators on a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive and 12-play, 68-yard field goal drive. “What we wanted to do was start fast like we did. We figured if we do that, go down and score, that’ll set the tone for the rest of the game,” he said. “I thought we did a really good job of that – like we did – and we just kept going on from there.”

He struggled a bit throughout the rest of the contest but also had a nice check down to Rainey for his 83-yard score in the third quarter.

“We work all week [on] all of our pass protections and everything. We know where our check downs are and where our outlets are,” he said. “Rainey got out clean and he was in that open area. I was looking for him all the way down and there he was. He can do some special things with the ball like he did tonight.”

Most importantly, Brantley did not turn the ball over for the second-straight game.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp began his post-game press conference by complimenting the fans who he said did a great job. “It was an electric atmosphere out there,” he said. “As you walked in the stadium through the Gator Walk, it was absolutely amazing.”

» He also said that Heisman Trophy-winning QB Danny Wuerffel and Hall of Fame RB Emmitt Smith spoke to the team over the weekend, something he thanked both men for doing and said was very meaningful to the team.

» On Florida’s pass rush: “We had some good pressures. The first interception of the second half was called by Ronald Powell. He was throwing off his back foot – elevated the ball – it was an overthrown ball. We’ve got to get pressure with four guys rushing.”

» On dropped interceptions and pass interference penalties: “We’ve dropped a bunch of interceptions this year. I guess do more ball drills or something. And on the other, I have no comment.”

» On Rainey: “This guy competes every day. Comes to work with his hard hat on. He talks a lot but he doesn’t complain about anything.”

» On whether or not the defense continues to improve: “It’s week-to-week, especially with our guys. We’re going to look at what we did that was positive and then we’re going to correct the things that got to get corrected. You got to constantly coach players, especially younger players, especially first-year scheme players.”

» On what he was yelling about at halftime: “I was upset about a bunch of stuff at halftime.”

» On if the team can win without the wide receivers being involved: “We’ll line up and run the wishbone if we can win. […] It’s about winning. Do what you got to do to win the game. You can’t take winning for granted.”

» On getting amped at sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell’s forced interception: “When you see a player start to come around and see the light – I want these guys to play well. I play through them. So when you see a guy finally get the pressure, get the caused interception, I’m excited for him. I’m excited he made a great play for the Gators, but I was happy for him.”

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9/14: Quinn talks defense, evaluates players

With the Florida Gators preparing for their first Southeastern Conference game of 2011 on Saturday against the Tennessee Volunteers, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn spoke about the Gators defense and also evaluated some of Florida’s standout players.

DEFENDING TENNESSEE THROUGH THE AIR

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is looking like a top-notch signal caller through the first two games of the season. Having completed 78.5 percent of his passes for nearly 700 yards and seven touchdowns, Branty “certainly passes efficiently like a NFL quarterback,” Quinn said Wednesday. “It’s one thing that really jumps out to you,” he added. “When you put their tape on, it’s how efficient they are in throwing the ball. You can tell that they’re starting to get together as a quarterback and receivers [group].”

Unfortunately for Florida, the Volunteers’ passing game will be attacking the Gators’ weakness – their extremely young secondary. Quinn noted that Florida will have to do a great job schematically and with on-field communication in order to win the aerial battle. “Really when you’re facing a really efficient offense like these guys, you really got to be on point with communication and you got to be on your stuff,” he said. “Because they really are efficient, if we’re playing a certain coverage or a certain technique, it’s got to be communicated really fast. That’s one of the things we’ve been working on hard since we started here all the way through training camp.”

One positive for the Gators is that all offseason the defense has been able to go against Florida’s offense which, like Tennessee’s, features the same personnel in multiple package. Quinn sees this as a huge advantage for UF heading into the game. “One thing that’s great about our team is that there’s really great competition at practice,” he said. “One thing that you like [is] whether you’re a linebacker that has to cover Chris Rainey or a safety that has to cover Jordan Reed. That competition prepares you a little bit for what you’re going to face down the road. Not just from this club but from all the teams. We certainly enjoy going against our offense, and I hope they feel the same way getting the competition in practice. That’s a valuable part of what we do.”

DEALING WITH THE VOLS ON THE GROUND

For the Gators to be successful, it all starts with stopping the run, getting pressure on the passer and creating turnovers – three things that are paramount to any team putting together a standout performance. Quinn was quick to note that even though the Volunteers are making their money through the air, they can also run the ball quite well.

“Although their stats are really high, they do have a run game, too. I’ve coached against their line coach before and have a lot of respect for the way they run the ball. Certainly they’ll try to establish that too,” he said. “I thought [their offensive line] was one unit that really improved when you watched their first two ball games of the year. Although they may be young like us at some spots, I think they’re a talented group, too. I really think on both sides the line of scrimmage is going to be a fun match-up to watch. They play hard, physical and tough, and our guys do, too.”

Once Florida gets that under control, they will also have to find a way to get to Bray consistently. The Gators registered two sacks in their season opener against Florida Atlantic but did not earn any against UAB’s passer last weekend.

“Sometimes you’ll hear me talk about affecting the quarterback. In our rush, we kind of talk about hits on the QB. We also use a term called a ‘reset’ where the quarterback has to move in the pocket, reset his feet and make a harder throw,” Quinn explained. “Some people talk about getting the quarterback off the spot, where he can’t just go to his five-step drop and then make his throws. Some of it will be pressure; some of it will be with our four-man rush. We certainly need to do a better job of collapsing the pocket from the outside in with our defensive ends.”

AFFECTING THE QUARTERBACK THE ENTIRE DEFENSE’s JOB

The return of sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd will help in that goal, Quinn said, but the defense as a whole (everyone from the defensive tackles to the safeties) must step up to rattle Bray from multiple standpoints. “I think he’s a big part of it but, like I said, and this is going to sound unusual, it might be the disguise of a coverage where the quarterback might have to wait a little longer [that does the trick]. This week’s match-up is really affecting the quarterback with our whole defense. Although [Floyd’s] going to be a part of it, in a way we’re all tying together to do it

“It might be a linebacker who is blitzing or a safety who is showing one coverage and playing something different to affect the QB. At the end of the day, you want to make it hard on a quarterback. Sometimes that’s with the four man rush where you get hits on the guy and he can really feel it. Sometimes it’s the mental pressure you can put on him. Those are kind of some of the games you play as a defensive coach when you go against a talented offense.”

PICKING WEIS’s BRAIN

Quinn was a big name when it came to defensive coaches in the NFL. He was very revered and praised by such players as Jason Taylor as the best position coach he ever had. However, even Quinn would agree that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is at another level in terms of reverence and appreciation for what he has accomplished in his career. When Weis decided to leave Kansas City for Florida, many were surprised and wondered how he would handle being second-fiddle to head coach Will Muschamp. So far so good, Quinn explains.

“The great thing about Charlie, when he stepped into that role, there was no doubt that he was in support of Will. That’s a real credit to him,” he said. “It’s a good person for Will to talk to and say, ‘Hey, in this situation, have you been there?’ And he’s kind of done that. It has been good for me too, to be honest with you. If I have a question about something, Charlie is, in my opinion, one of the sharpest offensive coordinators in football at any level. If I have a question, ‘How would you see us playing this? How would you [attack] this?’ Not only for Will but he’s also been a good resource for me from a football standpoint.”

In fact, Quinn will pick Weis’s brain often not just for schematic considerations but also specific concepts like the best ways to defend a two-minute drill, for example. “In my opinion, he’s been on teams that were the best in the world at [two-minute drills],” Quinn said. “Certainly during the week of game planning, we’re both dealing with our own issues on our side of the ball. But certainly if it would come up, I would certainly ask him.”

PLAYER EVALUATIONS, NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what area of the defense he is most frustrated with: “There’s a lot of areas that we really need to come along at. To me, I think affecting the quarterback is one that’s a big emphasis for us. Even more importantly than that is taking the ball away. Coach and I made a big emphasis on that, and it’s something we so strongly believe in – being a ball hawk, getting your hands on balls and being disruptive. If I had to circle one area that I would aim for improvement, it would be taking the ball away.“

» On Floyd’s ability and what it means for him to return to the team: “Any time you have a guy with size and with length to him – Sharrif’s a big guy. He’s got some size but he’s got some speed to move. He’s a defensive tackle who can also play D-end. We line him up in multiple spots. He’s a good technician. He’s strong when he gets his hands on you. He’s very heavy handed. He’s a good inside pass rusher. He’s such an outstanding teammate. He’s a terrific teammate and everybody’s looking forward to having him back out there. We certainly missed not having him out there.”

» Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (who has returned from a knee injury and has gotten much healthier over the last two weeks): “Jeremy looked good on the early part of the week. It’s good to see him back out there. He’s been gone for so long so now it was just cool to kind of get him back in the mix. I think we’ll find out more as we go further on during the week and as he gets through the whole week and then kind of make the decisions from there.”

» Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley’s dancing: “For me, I think he brings a lot of energy to our defense. That has certainly been brought up a lot lately. To be honest with you, I don’t notice it as much maybe as the next guy because I’ve been around him so much. You see him and that’s just Ease. He does bring a lot of energy and juice to the defense.”

» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell needing to step up: “At that position, which is called our buck, it’s kind of a unique spot. It’s a guy who can stand up at rush, play over the tight end, and it’s really one of our featured spots where we play to the open side of the defense a lot. That guy is counted on to be one of our big rushers. With Ron, we’re certainly looking for more production from his as a rusher; it’s something we’ve been working really hard at through training camp and over the start of the season. I’m looking forward to seeing him develop and move forward in that way. It’s a little bit of the system. You’re up in a three-point, you’re down. It’s just for him feeling more comfortable and playing all the different techniques. When you first start, it’s like you can be so many different things it’s kind of hard to master something. Now that he’s been playing in the system all the way through spring and training camp and now he’s got some experience with two games under his belt, I think we’ll see that production increase.”

» Redshirt freshman DE Lynden Trail, who is healthy but did not dress for Saturday’s game due to his performance in practice: “[We’re] just looking to increase his performance right now. No disciplinary action along those lines. Just looking to get more out of Lynden, and I think we’re getting that this week.”

» On if he is excited to open SEC play even though his players say Tennessee is a nameless and faceless opponent: “I’m certainly looking forward to it. That’s part of the reason why you come to a place like Florida, for the opportunity to play in cool games like this. Our approach has been that we take the same approach each week in how we prepare, how we study, how hard we practice and that kind of thing. But you definitely feel a buzz about the opponent and that kind of stuff.”

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9/12: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each Monday to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from this week’s availability.

OPENING STATEMENT AND PLAYER AWARDS

Muschamp began the press conference by noting that Florida had 16 explosive plays on offense and only gave up three, resulting in a great ratio of +13. In change of possession plays, the Gators were +3 due to the one turnover and two fourth down stops.

“The defense got a shutout – a lot of that is attributed to our offense possessing the ball in the second half,” he said, noting that Florida was also 91 percent on third down and did a great job running the ball for more than 300 yards.

However, he was very unhappy about the team’s nine penalties including the “six undisciplined penalties” that were caused due to alignment issues like jumping offsides on defense. “Some things that we just need to get cleared up and that’s something we just can’t tolerate,” he said.

Offensive Players of the Game: Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey
Scrap Iron Award (best offensive lineman): Redshirt senior transfer guard Dan Wenger
Big Play Award: Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose
Extra Effort Award: Junior RB Mike Gillislee
Defensive Player of the Game: Redshirt junior linebacker Lerentee McCray
Ball Hawk Award: Sophomore safety Matt Elam
(also credited were Jabari Gorman and Marcus Roberson)
Special Teams Player of the Week: Sophomore LB Darrin Kitchens
Scout Team Players of the Week: Offense-Jason Traylor (fr.); Defense-Tim Clark (redshirt soph.); Special Teams-Louchiez Purifoy (fr.)

INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) has been trying to give it a go each week, but Muschamp noted that the “injury [was] obviously much more severe than we had first thought.” Nevertheless, he said Brown practiced well last week and had good movement straight-ahead just struggled laterally. “He worked extremely hard through the week and we feel like he can give it a go this weekend.”

He added that senior RB Jeff Demps (shoulder) and redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring) are fine and the team will be a full-go otherwise. He also expects freshman TE A.C. Leonard (torn meniscus) to get back to practice and work a little bit.

Muschamp also discussed why redshirt sophomore WR Stephen Alli and redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail did not dress for the game on Saturday. He said Alli “has a little bit of a hamstring. He went to the hotel and wasn’t going to participate,” while “Lynden just needs to play better.”

A TAKE ON TENNESSEE

Muschamp provided his perspective on Saturday’s opponent, Tennessee, from all three facets of the game.

“Tyler Bray has played really good football, is completing close to 80 percent of his passes. They went to him latter part of last year, really turned around their offense as far as production is concerned. Both explosive playmakers outside – Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers – both guys who can stretch the field vertically, very good with the ball after the catch, both guys you got to account for. They’re going to run the football. They’re going to be balanced in what they do – the play actions and things.

“Defensively I’ve got a lot of respect for Justin Wilcox and what he’s done defensively. The guy’s a really good football coach and he’s got his guys playing hard, playing fast, playing physical. They’re in the right spots as far as what they’re doing defensively. Derek [Dooley]’s background is in special teams and offense, but special teams are very good.”

EASLEY CAN DANCE IF HE WANTS TO

Anyone watching the game on television (or with a good look from the stands) has undoubtedly noticed that sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley like to dance – throughout the entire game. Whether waiting for the ball to be placed on the field or waiting to get on the field while the offense is playing, Easley appears to be light on his toes and has a big smile on his face while doing so. Muschamp said Monday that he had no problem with his player’s antics.

“I think every player is different. Obviously as long as it’s within the rules and our officiating crew does an outstanding job. As long as he’s not doing anything to taunt the opponent, I’m fine with that. I want guys to be who they are,” he said.

Redshirt junior DT Omar Hunter, one of Easley’s linemates, enjoys the show. “That’s just him. That’s Dominique Easley. He always wants to have fun while he’s playing and we enjoy that,” he explained earlier on Monday. “He brings a lot of excitement to our team, a lot of energy, and we definitely use that and it motivates us. I think the dancing helps him focus even more.”

WEIS RUNS THE SHOW OFFENSIVELY

Asked how much input he has on the team’s offense, Muschamp explained Monday that he does have plenty of control from a philosophical standpoint but makes sure that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis handles most of that unit’s operations because, simply, it is not his specialty.

“As far as the personnel is concerned and philosophically what I want to be offensively – 100 percent. As far as what we’re doing, as far as what Charlie’s calling the plays and what he feels we need to do to be successful – he’s running it,” Muschamp said. “The worst thing you can do in a leadership position is be something you’re not. I’ve never called plays before and I haven’t coached quarterbacks either. I hired those guys with the idea that they were going to run the offense.”

He also discussed how the team has transitioned from a spread to pro-style offense under Weis. “You see some elements here and there that they’re very familiar with in the run game – especially last Saturday,” he said. “That’s one thing that Charlie and our offensive staff have done a really nice job of – identifying what we do well and make sure we accentuate the things we do well as opposed to plugging them into our system and saying, ‘This is what we are,’ and running it. I think that’s Charlie’s experience. He understands the playmakers – to get those guys the ball in the situations we need to do that.”

NOTES & QUOTES

» On sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell needing to improve: “We’d like to have some more production. As far as affecting the quarterback, he had a couple nice hits the other night pressuring the quarterback. It was more of a timing passing game; they got the ball out pretty quick. I think he’s playing well at the point of attack in the run game, but we need a little more production. I talked to him about it yesterday as far as being a more productive player as far as some of those things – sacks, hits and those things need to be a little bit more.”

» On if he’s excited to coach his first SEC game (sarcastic reply): “Yeah. That was a heck of a question. I’m really, really, really excited.”

» On not getting any sacks last week: “We need to get pressure with four guys rushing. That’s the best pass defense in America. You need to be able to rush four guys and we need to do a better job of that.”

» On if he sees a difference between facing UAB and SEC teams unlike his players: “From an approach standpoint, I don’t like to treat any other game more important than another one. It’s the next one, that’s why it’s the most important one. It’s a great rivalry and it’s in the SEC East and it’s a game we need to play well and win. From that standpoint, sure, it’s a really important game and I don’t think you need to tell our players that. They come to a place like Florida to play in a game like this. We don’t treat other teams more important than other teams. I think that’s when you start to get an ebb-and-flow of play and how you approach the game. So that’s why we approach it that way.”

» On Rainey’s mindset each day being a catalyst for the team: “When you walk on the practice field there are certain guys every single day that you see football is really important to them. Football is really important to Chris. You see how he competes, how he handles himself, how he approaches the meetings and how he goes on the field and works at practice. You could walk out and not know anything and not know any names and pick out certain guys and pick them by number and understand, ‘Hey, football is important to this guy.’ It’s a day-in, day-out deal. It’s not just a one-day deal. He works extremely hard every day.”

» On if Rainey going what he went through made football more of a priority: “I think so. I think anytime you have something taken away from you that’s important to you, you find out a lot about yourself and about how important it is to you. There’s no question.”

» On not asking too much of his young players: “You’re always mindful about the situations you’re going to put your players in. that certainly affects how you call the game, how you prepare in the game and understanding the situations that some of these young men are going to be in for the first time in a big-time atmosphere.”

» On not installing stuff late in the week: “The hay is in the barn after Thursday. We’re not adding stuff on Friday. Especially [not] with a young team. You can certainly do that with a veteran group.”

» On if he minds playing a friend in Dooley: “You’d rather not but, bottom line on Saturday, he’s going to do the best job he can for his team and I am for mine.” Does he still speak to him a lot? “Not much now.” What if they coached in different conferences? “Maybe.”

» On if he is impressed of the top-flight LSU coaching staff he was a part of (including himself, Dooley, Jimbo Fisher, etc.): “We had a really good staff. We had some really good coaches. Credit Nick [Saban] in the interview process in hiring the right guys and hiring the right fit. We were very fortunate. We had some really good players – that’s a huge part of it. We recruited well and coached well.”

» On sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd returning from suspension: “Looking forward to seeing him play. First of all, he’s a good young man, and second of all he’s a good football player. We’re excited to have him back.”

» On telling the team to stop running its mouths during the game: “You see some things obviously that you don’t like and then the official comes and says, ‘We’ve got a lot of chatter going on.’ So that’s my job to handle that. I walked in at halftime and told them, ‘Do the talking with your helmet. Shut up and play the game.’ That’s really all it is. Guys who want to run their mouth all the time generally aren’t playing very good in my opinion.”

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No. 18 Florida Gators vs. UAB Blazers Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 83°F, isolated thunderstorms
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: FSN/FSNHD
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: WatchESPN
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(18) FLORIDA GATORS UAB BLAZERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Neil Callaway
Record: 1-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Conference USA
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -23.5; O/U 53.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week two action? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday evening at 7 p.m. in The Swamp.

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 1-0 in the all-time series against UAB, defeating the Blazers 51-3 in 2002, the only time the teams squared off.
» The Gators are 36-15-3 against current members of Conference USA and have not lost to one such opponent since 1979. Florida last squared off against C-USA member Central Florida in 2006 and claimed a 42-0 victory.
» Florida has won 88 percent of its home games (118-16) since 1990, the best home winning percentage in the nation. In that period, the Gators are 56-4 against non-conference opponents and 92-4 against unranked teams.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Nine Florida players earned their first starts last Saturday in the season opener as freshmen safety De’Ante Saunders and cornerback Marcus Roberson; redshirt freshmen tight end Gerald Christian, wide receiver Quinton Dunbar and right tackle Chaz Green; sophomores defensive tackle Dominique Easley and S Matt Elam; redshirt junior linebacker Lerentee McCray; and redshirt senior transfer left guard Dan Wenger took the field with the Gators’ first team. It is the first time in school history that a pair of true freshman started the season opener in UF’s secondary.
» Florida’s offensive line did not allow a sack last Saturday.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (304) since 2000; however, UF did not obtain any in its season opener, finishing with a -3 turnover margin (interceptions). Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (68) since 2008.
» UF did not punt the ball last week but sophomore WR Solomon Patton blocked one which was returned for a touchdown. He has blocked a punt in back-to-back games dating back to last season (2011 Outback Bowl).

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and UAB have only met on one other occasion – Aug. 31, 2002 – when the Gators stomped the Blazers 51-3 in Ron Zook’s first game as the team’s head coach. Florida outgained UAB 643-240 in the contest and Rex Grossman went 16/26 for 337 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor Jacobs broke the Gators’ single-game receiving record with 246 yards and two scores on eight receptions, while Earnest Graham took 13 carries down the field for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

INJURIES

» Acitve: Soph. RB Trey Burton (bruise), redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson (head)
» Probable: Redshirt junior WR Omarius Hines (hamstring)
» Questionable: Redshirt jr. CB Jeremy Brown (knee), soph. WR Robert Clark
» Inactive: Soph. DT Sharrif Floyd (suspension), fresh. TE A.C. Leonard (meniscus)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley…who completed 70 percent of his passes (21-of-30) in the season opener for 229 yards and a touchdown but also threw two interceptions. Brantley only had a 60.8 completion percentage in 2010 with more picks than scores but is said to have been revitalized by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
» Running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey…who are co-starters in the backfield and two of the most dynamic and explosive players in the SEC. Demps and Rainey combined for 272 total rushing and receiving yards with five touchdowns against FAU. Rainey became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, while Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark and had four runs over 20 yards in the contest.
» Sophomore Trey Burton…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver.
» Elam…who stood out all offseason as the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary and moved into a starting role in 2011. He notched four tackles in the season opener good for second-best on the team
» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell…who steps into a new position somewhat unique to Muschamp’s defense. Powell started one game as a true freshman but has earned that role permanently this season and achieved a sack against FAU.
» Defensive tackles Easley and redshirt senior Jaye Howard…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (18 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard had a sack in the season opener, while Easley registered three tackles including one for a loss.
» Redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins…who had a team-high five tackles last Saturday including a big-time hit that earned him the team’s first Hard Hat Award.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is perfect this year on two field goal attempts including Florida’s first points of the season – a 51-yarder on UF’s first drive.

UAB
» QB Bryan Ellis…who started the final nine games of the Blazers’ 2010 season and finished with 2,940 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He leads a strong UAB passing attack that hopes to keep UF on its heels throughout the contest.
» RB Pat Shed…who is the team’s leading rusher for a year ago with 847 yards on the season. He also plays a role in the passing game and amassed 471 receiving yards as well as seven total touchdowns for the Blazers.
» LB Lamanski Ware…who is UAB’s defensive leader as well as a team captain in his senior campaign.

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9/3: Gators vs. Owls post-game news & notes

With the No. 22/23 Florida Gators‘ 2011 season opener against the Florida Atlantic Owls now in the books, OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s 41-3 victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

ABSENCES AND INJURIES

Perhaps the most important moment of the evening came before the game started when Florida announced that sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was ineligible and would not play. The Gators will not allow Floyd to rejoin the team until he is cleared by the NCAA, and the University of Florida would not immediately provide many specifics.

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) and redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring) were questionable going into the game and wound up inactive. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely (shoulder) ended up playing after it was originally thought he would miss the contest. Sophomore WR Robert Clark (hamstring) did not dress either.

Florida did not escape the Florida Atlantic contest unscathed. Sophomore running back Trey Burton appeared to injure his hip in the first quarter and did not return, likely for precautionary reasons. Redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson, catching a ball low to the ground, suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit that popped his off and left him on the ground holding his head. Thompson rose and left the field under his own power but did not return.

THE DEMPS AND RAINEY SHOW

The Gators’ offense rolled on Saturday due in large part to dominant performances by running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey. The duo combined for 272 yards of offense and five total touchdowns with Rainey grabbing three on a rush, reception and special teams return on a punt block by sophomore WR Solomon Patton.

The pair ran up the middle and off-tackle, caught passes in the flats and were simply all over the field making both explosive cuts (Demps) and awe-inspiring spin moves (Rainey). Demps even ran the opening kickoff back 88 yards for a touchdown until it was called back due to a holding penalty.

BRANTLEY’s STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Hoping to shake the rust off and rebound from a rough first season as a starter, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played quite well on Saturday, completing 21-of-30 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown. However, Brantley also threw two interceptions in the contest. His first was tipped and eventually brought down, but his second was picked off in the end zone as he tried to fit the ball into traffic for a touchdown.

Florida’s offense, though dynamic, did not go deep into the playbook on Saturday and many of Brantley’s completions were on short passes. That being said, he also made some impressive throws and definitely showed an increased level of confidence, something he can improve on each week.

SECONDARY YOUNG BUT DEFENSE STOUT

Not only did the Gators hold the Owls to three points, they barely let them move the ball until the game was already over. Florida held FAU to just 30 rushing yards and 137 yards of total offense on Saturday. Though UF did not achieve any turnovers in the contest, they succeeded in turning a first-and-goal from the four into a 27-yard field goal and did not let Florida Atlantic capitalize on either of the other two interceptions they grabbed.

The young secondary – consisting of safeties sophomore Matt Elam and freshman De’Ante Saunders as well as cornerbacks sophomore Jaylen Watkins, sophomore Cody Riggs and freshman Marcus Roberson – played well but did make some mistakes.

Redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard and sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell each had a sack, while redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins led the Gators with five total tackles including a powerful hit felt by the entire stadium. Elam, Howard and redshirt junior LB Lerentee McCray each had four tackles.

OTHER NOTES

» Muschamp said after the game that Florida’s blue jerseys would be their standard going forward but that seniors on the team wanted to wear the orange on opening night. A Gainesville, FL native himself, Muschamp often used to see the Gators don orange jerseys at The Swamp.

» Redshirt senior transfer Dan Wenger started at left guard ahead of redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne and redshirt freshman Chaz Green began the game at right tackle instead of redshirt junior Matt Patchan.

» Florida honored soccer stars Abby Wambach and Heather Mitts of the 2011 U.S. Women’s National Team during a break in the first quarter. The crowd chanted “U-S-A” for the duo, which has been in Gainesville all weekend.

» Former safety Ahmad Black, who was waived by Tampa Bay on Saturday, was on the sideline for the game. Former defensive end Kevin Carter was an honorary captain.

» The Gators sold out 137 consecutive home games before Saturday’s contest, which was only filled with 88,708 fans, according to UF.

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No. 22 Florida Gators vs. FAU Owls Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 72°F, partly cloudy
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPNU/ESPNUHD
SiriusXM: 205
Online Audio: GatorVision.tv
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(22) FLORIDA GATORS FLORIDA ATLANTIC OWLS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Howard Schnellenberger
Record: 0-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Sun Belt
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -34.5; O/U 50

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators after a long offseason? No problem. OGGOA has been here the entire time. Check out the links below and do your homework on the team’s offseason before the final exam Saturday evening.

Latest depth chart | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

As first reported by OGGOA last Friday, former Florida dazzler now ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was in Gainesville, FL on Monday to interview Muschamp. The segment will air live on College GameDay (which starts at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN) and will be followed by a discussion between Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso about Muschamp and what impact he will have on the team in 2011 and going forward.

A clip of Andrews’s interview with Muschamp is available below:

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 1-0 in the all-time series against Florida Atlantic, defeating them 59-20 in 2007, the only time the teams squared off.
» The Gators have never lost a game against a current member of the Sun Belt and are 13-0 against such opponents.
» Florida is 77-27 all-time to start the season and 62-6 in the friendly confines of Florida Field. The Gators have won 21 consecutive season openers, the second-longest streak in the country (Nebraska, 25) and best in the SEC by 10 games.
» Muschamp will take the field with Florida as the team’s head coach for the first time on Saturday. He has never served as a head coach on the collegiate level before and, at 40-years-old, is the second-youngest to hold said position in the SEC (Dan Mullen, 39).
» On the other side, Schnellenberger will be beginning his 27th year at the helm of a college football program – his last as he will retire at the conclusion of the 2011 season. He is 157-140-3 all-time and 57-63 at FAU since taking over the team 11 years ago.
» After defeating the Gators the first three times he faced them with Miami (1979-81), Schnellenberger has failed to notch another win. All four of his losses (1982, 1983, 1992, 2007) were games played in Gainesville, where he has not won in 31 years.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Florida has won 88 percent of its home games (117-16) since 1990, the best home winning percentage in the nation. In that period, the Gators are 55-4 against non-conference opponents and 92-4 against unranked teams.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Florida Atlantic have only met on one other occasion – Nov. 17, 2007 – when the Gators stomped the Owls 59-20. Quarterback Tim Tebow went 25/34 for 338 yards with three touchdowns and an interception through the air and also rushed 11 times for 31 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Andre Caldwell did most of the receiving with 13 catches for 164 yards, but tight end Cornelius Ingram corralled a pair of touchdowns and 60 receiving yards. After UF scored 21 unanswered points in the first quarter, FAU answered back with 13 points to start the second quarter. However, the Gators outscored the Owls 38-7 the rest of the way to hold on for the victory.

INJURIES

» Active: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (back)
» Questionable: Redshirt junior cornberback Jeremy Brown (knee), redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (shoulder), redshirt junior receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring)
» Inactive: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (torn meniscus)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Brantley…who completed only 60.8 percent of his passes (200-of-329) for 2,061 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2010 butis said to have been revitalized by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’s pro-style system.
» Running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey…who are co-starters in the backfield and two of the most dynamic and explosive players in the SEC. Demps and Rainey, both of whom missed game time in 2010, combined for 917 rushing yards (6.4 yards per carry) and five touchdowns on the ground as well as 332 receiving yards and three scores through the air.
» Sophomore Trey Burton…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam…who stood out all offseason as the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary. Elam played in all 13 games in 2010 and is looking to make a name for himself this year.
» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell…who steps into a brand new position somewhat unique to Muschamp’s defense. Powell only started one game as a true freshman but will be entrenched from the get-go in 2011 as a hybrid player.
» Sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd…who is a defensive tackle but moved to defensive end this year to help the team. Floyd also started one game as a true freshman but plenty of pressure on his massive shoulders as a full-time starter in 2011.
» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard…who is the man in the middle for the Gators and is the most experienced player (17 starts) on his side of the ball.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. His consistency on special teams should help the Gators be more confident overall.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC
» RB Alfred Morris…who was the team’s leading rusher in 2010 with 928 yards and seven TDs. A redshirt senior, Morris is being counted on as the Owls’ primary playmaker.
» QBs Graham Wilbert…who will make his first start for FAU. The signal caller battled for his job all spring and summer but is very inexperienced only having thrown five passes in his college career.

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (9-1)

With just one day to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the final part of OGGOA‘s new series, The Countdown, takes a look at those players expected to contribute on the field wearing jersey numbers ranging from 9-1.

9 – Joshua Shaw (Palmdale, CA)
Redshirt freshman safety
6’3” 197 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: An early enrollee as a freshman, Shaw only saw the field against South Florida partially due to Florida’s crowded secondary. He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and considered the No. 3 cornerback in the nation by Rivals. Choosing the Gators over teams like LSU and Ohio State, Shaw is now a social and behavioral sciences major looking to make an impact.

2011 Outlook: Shaw entered fall practice as a back-up safety vying for a starting job. However, the emergence of true freshmanDe’Ante Saunders and inconsistencies from the entire unit may reduce his time on the field in 2011. Shaw has as good an opportunity as any to break free from the pack by proving he can be effective and consistent in practice and could wind up with plenty of playing time as the season progresses.

84 9 – Quinton Dunbar (Miami, FL)
Redshirt freshman wide receiver
6’1” 184 lbs.

Dunbar previously wore No. 84. Read his section by clicking here.

8 – Trey Burton (Venice, FL)
Sophomore running back
6’3” 229 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A three-star quarterback recruit, Burton was never expected to spend a large amount of time at that position but wound up doing so as a freshman. A social and behavioral sciences major who plans to switch to business, he was a member of the 2010 SEC All-Freshman Team as a do-everything player last year. Burton spent time behind center as well as at wide receiver, tight end, fullback and as a member of special teams on kickoff coverage. He ran for a team-high 11 touchdowns and broke Tim Tebow’s school record with six touchdowns in a single game (Kentucky). Those six scores were also good for the second-most points scored in a game in SEC history. Burton also came up big against Georgia, totaling 145 all-purpose yards in an important victory.

2011 Outlook: The Gators’ most versatile offensive player, Burton is listed as running back but will also play other roles including full back, tight end and wide receiver. He will be asked to block more than he was a year ago will be used plenty by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. “What Trey gives me…I’m a formation/personnel guy as far as attacks go. Trey gives me a lot of versatility within one personnel group,” Weis said. “Sometimes people don’t understand the magnitude of what that means. He lets you do a lot of things.”

8 – Jeremy Brown (Orlando, FL)
Redshirt junior cornerback
5’10” 187 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit, Brown was sidelined by back problems for two full seasons and earned a redshirt as a freshman. The social and behavioral sciences major made it a point to rehab his back as much as possible during and after the 2009 season and sought to earn a starting role on the team when Joe Haden declared early for the NFL.

2010 Season: Entering camp with an opportunity to win the job across from Janoris Jenkins, Brown eventually wound up doing so and started 10 contests. He missed the final two regular season games with a hamstring injury but played in the Outback Bowl to end the season. He finished the year with 15 tackles and three interceptions.

2011 Outlook: Looking to begin the 2011 season as the oldest starter in the secondary, Brown has been hampered with a knee problem and may miss at least the first game of the season. He will have to fend off a number of young players to win the job outright but will likely be able to do so as coaches noted during the spring that he was impressing during camp.

7 – Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA)
Sophomore buck linebacker
6’4” 248 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: Considered the No. 1 overall prospect coming out of high school by Rivals, Powell was a five-star recruit who played defensive end and tight end in high school. The social and behavioral sciences major fit in as the strong side linebacker in 2010 and was one of just six true freshmen to appear in very game. He finished the season with 25 tackles and one sack, proving that he had a bright future as a dominant force in the SEC.

2011 Outlook: New head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be counting on Powell big-time in 2011. Named the team’s starting buck linebacker, he will play with his hand in the dirt in 4-3 formations and up as a linebacker in 3-4 sets. Powell’s combination of quickness, agility and athleticism makes him the perfect fit for a position made famous by players under Muschamp like Jason Taylor and Sergio Kindle. Though only in his second year, he is expected to be a major contributor to a unit that hopes to be one of Florida’s strengths this season.

7 – Robert Clark (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
Sophomore wide receiver
5’9” 173 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A three-star pass catcher who was teammates with Matt Elam and Gerald Christian at Dwyer High School, Clark was an early enrollee and the first freshman to impress former head coach Urban Meyer one spring ago. He saw limited time on the field in 2010 but caught seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.

2011 Outlook: Not much has been said about Clark this offseason. He was not listed as one of the receivers on the Gators’ first two-deep fall depth chart, but Christian believes he will still see time this season. “They don’t have him with the first team and stuff, but every time Robert gets reps he makes the most of it,” he said last month. “He’s not a starter, but I think he’ll get time as an inside guy. One thing about Robert – he doesn’t whine or anything, he just goes hard and gives whatever he has all the time. That’s why I think he makes a big impression on coaches.”

6 – Jaye Howard (Apopka, FL)
Redshirt senior defensive tackle
6’3” 303 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star defensive end in high school who has switched to play on the inside, Howard is a social and behavioral sciences major who took a redshirt as a freshman in 2007. He played in nine games in 2008 but earned his first four starts in 2009, registering 29 tackles and 1.5 sacks as he continued to find his niche with the team.

2010 Season: Stepping into a real starting role for the first time in his career, Howard started eight contests (he missed two due to injury) during his redshirt junior campaign. He was the team’s player of the game twice (Miami-OH, Kentucky) and again nabbed 29 tackles on the season but this time grabbed 2.5 sacks including two in the season opener. Howard’s injury cut into his effectiveness during the year.

2011 Outlook: The true veteran of the defense, Howard has taken a leadership role in the offseason and feels the added responsibility to play at the top of his game. Scouts believe he has the size and strength to succeed at the next level but will be watching his 2011 campaign closely for major signs of improvement. He is Florida’s starting nose tackle heading into the season and is excited about the team’s direction on defense. “I’ve become more accustomed to playing a 3-4 now. It fits my body type and it’s working well with our team, so it’s going to look good this season,” he said.

6 – Deonte Thompson (Belle Glade, FL)
Redshirt senior wide receiver
6’0” 200 lbs.

Quick Bio: A U.S. Army All-American who was considered one of the best wide receivers coming out of high school, Thompson is a humanities and letters major who redshirted as a freshman but began making strides in 2008. Used sparingly as a redshirt freshman, Thompson posted 269 yards and three touchdowns as the Gators went on to win their second national title in two years. He returned in 2009 as a 12-game starter but was plagued by drops, catching just 24 balls for 343 yards and four touchdowns in Florida’s one-loss season.

2010 Season: Looking to rid himself of the stereotype of having butterfingers, Thompson had a rough start dropping a great pass in the season opener. The Gators’ offense – especially the passing game – struggled all year but he did wind up with career highs in receptions (38) and yards (570) but only found the end zone once. He started 12 of 13 games and became a reliable third-down target and first-down maker for classmate John Brantley. In just the first two games of the season he caught nine passes for 107 yards – all for first downs.

2011 Outlook: With Brantley having apparently been rejuvenated by Weis’s pro-style offense, Thompson hopes to make the most of his final year at Florida. He is listed on the team’s first depth chart as the starting Z receiver and has also formed a strong bond with Dunbar, who many expect to have a breakout season. He has also found a role as a standout on special teams, something Muschamp praised recently. “I want to say this about Deonte: He is a senior and a guy that we really challenged in the offseason about special teams and understanding, if you want to play after college and if you’re not the lead role at your position in the National Football League, you’ve got to play special teams,” he said. “The guy has done a phenomenal job on special teams. He’s on our punt team; he’s on our kickoff coverage team. I’m very proud of his effort.”

5 – Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Freshman cornerback
6’0” 184 lbs.

Quick Bio: One of the last players to join the Gators’ 2011 recruiting class, Roberson was ranked as a four-star prospect and one of the best players at his position in the country.

2011 Outlook: Following in the footsteps of Haden and Jenkins, Roberson could very well be the third player in team history to start from day one at cornerback. Whether or not he starts on Saturday will be determined by how well he practiced this week, but he has received universal praise from his teammates and coaches throughout fall practice. “When a guy does have speed and length, sometimes it enables you to play a little different style and match up on some bigger receivers at times,” Quinn said of Roberson. “He has that, and I’m really looking forward to seeing him develop. He’s come into camp and he’s really had a good training camp. He’s made an impression on me.”

4 – Andre Debose (Sanford, FL)
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver
5’11” 191 lbs.

Quick Bio: Hailed as the “next Percy Harvin” (a moniker he detested) before even committing to Florida, Debose was a five-star recruit and one of the best players in the country during his time in high school. After injuring himself in track during his senior year of high school, he had surgery and redshirted the 2009 season, putting on hold the hopes of fans that he would electrify the Gators.

2010 Season: Finally healthy, Debose struggled in picking up Meyer’s offense and did not receive too much time on the field at his natural position of wide receiver. He played in certain packages and picked up 96 yards on 10 receptions but made his greatest impact in 2010 as a kick returner. Debose fielded 21 balls and brought them back for a total of 587 yards with two touchdowns including a dynamic 99-yard return at home against LSU.

2011 Outlook: Debose committed himself to the team in the offseason and has been praised by Muschamp recently as “flashing” with some dynamic touchdown catches in practices and scrimmages. “It’s something that happened over the summer. I really just took football to another level. I have really made football a priority of mine,” Debose said. “I’ve studied a lot more. I’ve really dove into the playbook, so I feel like I have a nice grasp of it. We’ll know the truth once we get on the field and practice what you’ve been studying the whole time.” He is listed as the second-team X receiver and primary kick returner and could finally be in position for a breakout season. “He just continues to show the consistency in his performance, and I’m very pleased,” Muschamp said of him.

4 73 – Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia, PA)
Sophomore defensive tackle
6’3” 295 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A five-star recruit and a unanimous top-five player in the nation as a high school senior, Floyd had 23 tackles including 6.5 for loss as a freshman, impressing his teammates, coaches and opponents. He was named to the 2010 SEC All-Freshman Team by league coaches and started Florida’s final game of the season against Penn State. He played in all 13 games in 2010 and had a career-high seven tackles against Vanderbilt.

2011 Outlook: Floyd has experienced some changes this offseason. He shed No. 73 for No. 4 (hence why he was not included in The Countdown Nos. 79-70) but just recently switched back to his old number. More importantly, he moved from defensive tackle to defensive end (for at least this season) but will continue to rotate inside from time to time. As a full-time starter in just his second year, Floyd is expected to be a major contributor to the Gators’ defense and is excited about his new role. “You can’t get double-teamed at that position; I’m loving it. I’m getting a feel for it, learning everything I can get, learning the situations and everything like that. It’s a good opportunity for me, and I’m going to take advantage of it,” he said.

3 – Jelani Jenkins (Olney, MD)
Redshirt sophomore linebacker
6’0” 230 lbs.

Quick Bio: An Under-Armour All-American, Jenkins was a five-star recruit and the No. 1 player at his position as a high schooler when he committed in 2009. He dressed for all 14 games as a true freshman but only participated in two and took a redshirt while he made the honor roll as a social and behavioral sciences major.

2010 Season: Jenkins stepped into a starting role as a redshirt freshman, playing in all 13 and starting 11 contests. He notched a career-high 11 tackles against South Carolina and finished with 76 on the season, good enough for second on the defense and most by a freshman. Jenkins also recovered a fumble, grabbed an interception and sacked the quarterback twice during his first full season on the field, proving that he will be an important part of Florida’s defense for the next few years.

2011 Outlook: The starting will linebacker, Jenkins talent is of little doubt but the coaching staff has asked him to be more of a leader both on- and off-the-field this year. “We have a lot of checks, we have a lot of signals as a defense that force you to be vocal,” he said. “You’re always talking out there, always communicating, so it hasn’t been that difficult. […] People count on you on the field to make a lot of calls, even off the field they’re always listening to you. The more you know the defense, the more you’re talking always helping each other out.” He has been succeeding in this regard and, along with junior Jon Bostic, is a key member of the Gators’ linebacking corps.

2 – Dominique Easley (Staten Island, NY)
Sophomore defensive tackle
6’2” 282 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: Another five-star from Florida’s amazing 2011 recruiting class, Easley struggled during his freshman season. Dealing with bouts of homesickness while also (reportedly) displaying some immaturity, the No. 2 defensive tackle prospect did not see the field much but showed flashes when he did get the opportunity to get in the game.

2011 Outlook: With a renewed attitude and mindset, Easley has been one of the most talked about players this offseason. Coaches and teammates have raved up and down about his lightning quick first step, noting that he has a penchant for getting through the offensive line almost immediately after the ball is snapped. He is set to start at defensive tackle in the opener and attributes his redemption to a decision he made in the offseason. “[Muschamp] just told me that I have a fresh start. My plan was to do a fresh start, too, start from the beginning and start the right way,” he explained. “Maturity – I matured a lot and [started] making better choices. […] I had to get used to it. I had to break myself in.”

1 – Chris Rainey (Lakeland, FL)
Redshirt senior running back
5’9” 174 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Rainey committed to the Gators alongside a number of his teammates (including the Pouncey brothers) and is the only one his age from Lakeland remaining on the squad. A humanities and letters major, Rainey took a medical redshirt as a freshman due to his shoulder injury but bounced back in a big way in 2008, rushing for a career-high 652 yards (7.5 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He started catching some balls in 2009 as well, totaling 736 yards and six touchdowns in a solid redshirt sophomore campaign.

2010 Season: After catching six balls for 34 yards and a touchdown in the season opener and playing sparingly in the second game, Rainey was suspended five contests after being arrested but returned and finished the season as the team’s primary playmaker in the final six games. He was moved to receiver to start the season but wound up taking a lot of snaps at running back toward the end of the year due to injuries. Rainey only scored five touchdowns but totaled 582 yards of offense and brought back nine punts for 67 yards in just eight games. He also posted 148 yards as a kickoff returner against Georgia.

2011 Outlook: Moved back to running back, Rainey will be part of an explosive backfield duo with senior Jeff Demps. The pair is listed as co-starters and, according to Weis, could really do some special things for the team in 2011. Rainey recently discussed maturing in the offseason and keeping his focus on football. “I see everything like a man [now]. I do everything [more] professional,” he explained about his changed mindset. “[I] think first. I would do something before I [thought] about it [before].” He is also excited about playing in a pro-style offense again. “I feel super-good, great,” Rainey said. “You can see the whole field, so you know how the scheme works, where to cut and stuff like that.”

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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